For hundreds of years, Edward II was the most significant “gay” figure of memory in the historical record. As an individual whose singular association with a historical moment or quality—in this case, Edward’s infamous love affair with his male favorite Piers Gaveston—supersedes, in many capacities, the surrounding history that supported or created that personage, Edward becomes instantly and intimately connective to the concept of same-sex love. Throughout the historical and literary record, each writer working with Edward II—from Renaissance playwrights to Gothic novelists to Victorian textbook authors—have had to reckon with Edward’s sexuality. However, in the twentieth century, anxiety over depictions of Edward’s sexuality resulted in the straightwashing of the king, where all references to his sexuality were frequently stricken from the fictional record. This talk will look to the sources and ramifications of that anxiety and strive to make sense of how an entire era felt it could ignore—and perhaps even rewrite—a well-established historical record.
Michael Cornelius, Ph.D.
Professor of English and Director of the Master of Humanities Program, Wilson College
Michael G. Cornelius is the author/editor of sixteen books and has published over fifty scholarly articles. He is a professor of English at Wilson College.